Monday, August 31, 2015


With nearly 7 million pink salmon forecasted to return to Puget Sound rivers this year, just about everyone I know has been hitting the beaches with pink fever. Earlier in the month I spoke with David Hyde at KUOW about the many charms of pinkies, traditionally the least appreciated of our five Pacific salmon species. Since then I've nearly filled my catch card—and the freezer, with a year's supply of smoked salmon.

Today I searched this blog for a salmon caviar recipe and was surprised I'd never posted one. I've been curing salmon roe for years, ever since my pal Beedle (of Fat of the Land fame) showed me how more than a decade ago. Alas, it's been a year since my last caviar session and Beedle's notes have gone missing, so I took to the Web—and I'm glad I did.

I found this post by someone named Marc at No Recipes. To separate salmon eggs from their skeins, I've always used the warm water method. Though it works, it's messy and time-consuming, and the act of picking out all those nasty little bits of skein deserves to have its own ring in Hell. Instead I gave Marc's method a try...and I'm here to tell you it works. I found a wire cooling rack, the sort you might use for cookies hot out of the oven, and placed it over a large mixing bowl. Next I opened up the skeins and ran them back and forth over the rack. The eggs fell easily into the bowl. Besides doing the job quickly with minimal wastage, the process is an object lesson in the durability of salmon eggs. They're tough! Nature takes care of its own, if we let it.

After separating the eggs, I rinsed them in a wire mesh strainer with cold tap water and then adapted Marc's recommended ikura recipe rather than making my usual salt brine. Because I was using smaller pink salmon skeins, and because I didn't have any sake on hand, I halved his recipe and used aji-mirrin in place of sugar and sake.

3/4 cup dashi *
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp aji-mirrin
2 tsp kosher salt
2 small skeins salmon roe

* For making homemade dashi, see my post on Oyster Mushroom Udon.

1. Peel open egg skein with fingers. Separate salmon eggs from skeins by rubbing the open end of the skein across a wire cooling rack.

2. Mix curing ingredients together in a bowl and add the eggs. Refrigerate overnight, curing from 12 to 24 hours.

3. Drain. Ikura will keep in a refrigerated glass jar for several days.

I've eaten variations of salmon caviar and ikura made from every species of Pacific salmon. They're all good. Chum salmon eggs are especially beloved in Japan, but pinks have their own merits. The briny goodness of cured salmon eggs popping in your mouth is one of the great culinary delights—and a good reason to go catch a salmon.

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